Escape Velocity Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Joseph Wallace

Joseph is a recently retired elementary school principal and is a teacher with 36 years of experience in elementary education. He hold an EdS in Advanvced Professional Studies

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to visit the stars? First you'd have to figure out how to get your spaceship off the earth, and to do that you'll have to know something about escape velocity. This lesson will tell you about escape velocity.

What's Gravity Got to Do with It?

How high can you throw a ball? Well, no matter how high you throw it, it's going to fall back to the earth. The ball falls back to the ground because there is a force, called gravity, which stops it from flying off into space. Gravity stops you, me, and everything else on the earth from flying off into space and, really, there would be no life on earth without gravity. Think about it for a minute: without gravity, water would not flow out of a bottle, you wouldn't be able to walk or run, fruits wouldn't fall from trees, even the air around us would float away into space!

So if gravity stops objects from leaving the earth, how are scientists able to send rockets and spaceships to the moon and other planets? The answer has to do with escape velocity.

What Is Escape Velocity?

The word 'escape' means to get away from, and 'velocity' here refers to speed, or how fast something travels, so an object's escape velocity is how fast it needs to go the get away from the force of gravity keeping it on the planet. In other words, if we could get something to travel fast enough, it would be able to break away from gravity's pull and fly off into space.

How Does Escape Velocity Work?

Let's imagine you wanted to launch a spaceship from planet earth to the moon. You would need to make enough energy, which comes from your fuel, to get your ship up to a speed of about 25,000 miles per hour in order to leave earth behind. Scientists call this energy thrust. The heavier your spaceship is, the more thrust or energy it will need to reach escape velocity.

Now 25,000 miles per hour is very, very fast and rockets can't get to that speed while they are still in the atmosphere, but when they get off the planet, where the force of earth's gravity is much weaker, they are able to accelerate, or go faster, until they reach escape velocity.

Shuttle blasting off
Shuttle blasting off

Some Facts About Escape Velocity

The heavier an object is, the more energy it will need to get to its escape velocity. The lighter an object is, the less energy, or thrust, it will need to reach escape velocity.

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Escape Velocity Lesson for Kids Quiz

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The two main factors that affect the amount of energy an object needs to reach its escape velocity are

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